The city was divided. First World War soldiers were returning home to find many of their former jobs taken by immigrants from the countries they had just fought against.

Those who had jobs were just as tense. The First World War caused inflation, leading to increased cost of living. City council rejected requests for wage increases, leading to their striking in April 1919. Council acted swiftly, firing the striking workers. This action only increased labour tensions and by May 1919, nearly the entire private and public working force had gone on strike

Strikers wanted better lives. Those opposing the strikers feared the threat of communism. Tensions came to a head on June 21, 1919, when 30, 000 strikers assembled at market square for the largest labour demonstration in Canadian history.